The movie begins with an opening text, a flat-out lie informing us that what we're about to see is based on true events that happened in Minnesota in 1987.
Next, a car towing another car drives on a highway through the snowy landscape.
Except for the car slowly emerging out of the desolate scene, there's nothing else in sight.
The driver heads to a tavern where he meets with two men, introducing himself as Jerry Lundegaard.
The men, Carl Showalter and Gaear Grimsrud, are annoyed, since Jerry's apparently an hour late. Jerry says he's here at the time he said he'd be.
Guess there was a misunderstanding. Foreshadowing alert: the first of many things that go wrong.
They get down to business. Jerry's friend Shep Proudfoot recommended these two guys as criminal associates for a job Jerry needs them to do: he wants them to kidnap his wife. The plan is for them to ask for ransom money, which Jerry will get from his rich father-in-law.
Jerry will collect the money, give the kidnappers an $80,000 payoff and he'll throw in the car he's brought along with him, an Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera.
This would be a killer (pun intended) product placement if they hadn't stopped making Cieras years ago.
They'll get half the money now and half later. Jerry will keep part of the ransom money and get Jean back unharmed.
Jerry won't tell the men why he needs the money.
Carl wants to know, but eventually caves and agrees to do the job.